Back in January, I posted about a career lesson I learned from dating. Here's another random lesson I picked up along the way...
Many years ago I briefly dated an athletic, academic fellow with a slightly quirky personality. Let's call him Hal. Hal's quirks included that he had a minimal sense of humor - he rarely found things laugh-out-loud funny - and he had a tendency to think he was right about most things. I, on the other hand, love to laugh. I really appreciate a good sense of humor in the tough times as well as the good times.
Hal didn't laugh at many of the things I laughed at, but he had a redeeming quality - he loved to dance. I don't know what the options are for women who are in the dating scene these days, but 'back in my day' it seemed that there weren't a lot of guys who would admit to enjoying dancing (maybe I hung out in the wrong places?) Anyway, Hal was an exceptionally good dancer and loved to organize groups to go hear bands and dance.
So Hal and I began dating. We connected rather intensely on a couple of things at an academic level, and we both loved to dance. Not a perfect relationship, but definitely better than some other relationships I had seen. Then an incident occurred where Hal revealed a fatal flaw that caused me to break up with him. Hal had an accident that cause him to lose 50% of the sight in one eye. It seems he was holding a BB gun and for some reason decided to hold the barrel of the gun to his eye. The gun randomly discharged a BB into his eye; hence the loss of sight. I quit seeing him pretty soon thereafter.
A few of my acquaintances chided me for breaking up with him right after a disabling accident - they said I was being harsh, and it wasn't "cool" to leave someone in their time of need. But I felt differently. I've always been a rather pragmatic person, so my approach to dating was never to just hang out and have fun forever. I was dating because I expected to marry someday and share a lifelong commitment. I didn't want to spend a lot of time an energy on a relationship that ultimately would make me and the other person unhappy. And when I heard about Hal's accident I knew I could never marry him. I took gun safety class in high school. The number one rule of gun safety is to always treat every gun as if it is [say it with me now] LOADED. I simply couldn't trust a man with such poor judgment as to hold a gun to his eye and look down the barrel to be the father of my children. I would never feel safe leaving them alone with their dad! When I put it all together - no laughter, always needing to be right, and poor judgment, I knew that the fact that he could dance, and the fact that he "needed me at this time" simply wasn't enough to make me stay in the relationship.
So here's the career lesson...I have often talked with people who are unhappy in their job and want to leave, but "the company is going through some changes, and my boss is really relying on me." This happens at small companies when there are few resources to get the job done, and at large companies when an employee wants to move to another department, but his boss wants to hang on to him. Essentially, they tell me they are staying in their job because they would feel guilty leaving. Guilt is never a good foundation for a relationship - not for romantic relationships, and not for professional relationships.
If you are unhappy in your job, and you know that long term it is not going to be a match for your needs, don't feel guilty about moving on. Of course, that's not to say you should jump ship immediately without making sure you are going to a better situation. In my case with Hal, I firmly felt it was better to be single and "alone" rather than connected with someone whose judgment I could not respect. In the case of work, this means you need to consider your salary, benefits, training you are receiving, network you are building etc. If, for example you hate your job, but you are building skills that will help you achieve your future goals, you may want to stick around. Or if your boss knows you are considering other opportunities and says he needs you and offers you a decent retention bonus to stay through the end of the year, you may decide that it's worth it to stick around. On the other hand, if the money, benefits and training don't stack up and you are only doing it because you feel guilted into it by a needy boss whose judgment you cannot respect, then it's okay to move on if you don't have a match!